Why Saving Energy Saves Water

Why Saving Energy Saves Water

We are in a record dry period. When will it rain? As we should know, water is used in every industrial practice, mixing, cleaning and manufacturing materials; not just for flushing toilets and drinking. Water is inextricably linked with energy consumption and therefore, conserving energy conserves water.

If you spent some time researching and observing the pipelines, dams, reservoirs and infrastructure that have been built to get the water to your tap, you will understand. Though we can create usable energy, we cannot create water. In California, water comes from the mountains, but the cites are on the coast and down south. The Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems transport melted snow from the Sierras. A large portion of this water is taken out and pumped in the California Aqueduct. According to Build it Green (http://www.builditgreen.org), 75% of California’s water originates in Northern California, and 75% of California’s water is used by Southern California. That water has to get there, including over a mountain pass.

One of our favorite organizations, The Center for Land Use Interpretation (http://www.clui.org) had a bus tour of the pass between the Central Valley and Southern California, the area known as Grapevine. Though we were not privilege to be on this tour, we read about it in their newsletter. It was striking to read the following facts (“Through the Grapevine Bus Tour, Merging with Streams and Transit”, The Lay of The Land, Winter, 2011 p. 27):

The California Aqueduct carries 2 billion gallons of water a day to Southern California.

It is the largest publicly built and operated water project in the world.

Some states in the USA consume less energy than California uses just to move its water around.

Notables regarding the Grapevine water system:

Fourteen pumps move the water in several tunnels that are built into the mountains. Water is pumped from the Central Valley floor up 1900 feet to get over the pass. Once over the pass it flows into Pyramid Lake, a man made reservoir. Through another underground pipeline, seven miles long, the water moves down to another man made reservoir, Castaic Lake and then a complex series of pipes move the water to the various parts of Southern California.

Here is an interesting fact that ties water together with energy, as if understanding how water gets pumped all over the state wasn’t enough; Pyramid lake serves as a holding tank. Energy is generated when water is let out of this lake, through the tunnel into Castaic Lake, down a 1000 foot drop. This is done during the day and evening when electricity is at peak demand and therefore worth more. Then, at night, the turbines that generated this electricity pump the water back up the tunnel into Pyramid Lake. In terms of energy, there is a net loss; more energy is used to pump the water up than is generated when it flows down. But electricity is less expensive at night and the power company makes money on the difference.

Here is an interesting resource for learning how to save water from a residential perspective: http://www.h2ouse.org/

The smaller scale residential facts: (according to America Water Works Association http://www.awwa.org)

40-60% of potable water goes to the landscape

Indoor water use is divided this way, typically: toilets, 27%, clothes washers, 22%, showers, 17%, faucets 16%, leaks, 14%, bathtubs, 2%, dishwashers 2% and “other” 2%.

Some ways also to save water:

Conduct a water audit and find out the appropriation of water for each use.

Install water conserving fixtures and appliances

Lower landscape watering needs and look at optimizing your irrigation system

Harvest rainwater

Install a greywater system

Fix leaks


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340 Potrero Ave
San Francisco, CA 94103
tel: (415) 503-7071